Highland Fling

October 1, 2008
By Mackenzie Theobald, Bloomington, IN

It was the best part of the day, the part of the day when we were free to do whatever we wanted, almost complete freedom in a foreign city during one of the largest theatre festivals in the world. It was just a short block before we were at a bus stop that would take us anywhere in the city. Going by bus to the Royal Mile, the “center” of the festival, was one of the most exciting parts of being in Edinburgh, Scotland. In a way it was a bit like taking on another identity, as if we were in a movie. As long as we remained quiet nobody knew that we weren’t just another bunch of Scottish teens heading downtown, instead of being a group of foreign American high schoolers. All we needed to do was flash our bus passes, scramble up the steps to the top of the double-decker bus and, after only a few minutes, Bus “30” arrived at North Bridge, our stop. It was just a few blocks away from campus, but there, the atmosphere was completely different. Being so close to the heart of the festival, the excitement was tangible-- a sort of electricity that hung in the air mixing with the raindrops that were constantly falling. We couldn’t walk five steps without being swarmed by people hawking their show. Dressed in costumes, each thrust pieces of paper at us begging us to come to their show. But today, instead of scouting shows, Sophie, Sahar and I had made our way to the Mile for a different reason, to see the opening parade. “I hope we can find them” Sahar said, voicing all of our concerns. By “them” she meant our newly made Scottish friends we had met the day before who were marching in the parade. “We won’t” said Sophie, being pessimistic and in a mood similar to the weather, “do you know how many people there are in this city?”

It’s a bit ironic that the entire cast was dreading what we would later consider to be one of our best days on the trip. The day before, our schedule had simply read “12 hr. Workshop.” The word “workshop” in the theatre world is normally the kiss of death for teen actors looking to have fun. What we didn’t know though was that it would be twelve hours spent with some of the most amazing people we’ve ever met. After spending an hour on a bus we arrived at a theatre camp for Scottish teens. We all started to mix and introduce ourselves. Before long we were playing pony, a game they taught us. “Na-na-na-na this is how we run!” we all sang, galloping around the circle. The rest of the day was spent singing, eating, laughing and chanting. After hearing one of the chants “Pete the boady, pete pete the boady boady” I asked what it meant, I wish I hadn’t. One of the last things we did was a dance to the Proclamer’s song 500 Miles. My partner sang it at the top of his lungs with a thick Scottish accent, and swung me around so fast that my feet literally left the floor. When the night was over and our bus pulled away, the excitement wore off quickly for some, but Sahar and I were still talking about it when we got back to the dorms. Both of us stayed up late into the night talking and laughing about what we thought was the best day of our lives. I’ve lived in the same town my entire life, most people I know have known me for years. Being with so many new people, I was free to be myself, without having to worry about what they thought of me. I was able to be who I am today, seen through the lens of who I was when I was younger. I made friends while being myself, therefore it was incredibly important for me to find those that accepted me again.

Following the sound of bagpipes we made our way to Princes Street, where the Parade had already started. The streets were tightly packed, with people crowded like sardines in brightly colored raincoats. Sahar and Sophie both grabbed my hands as we snaked our way through the crowd, but there was still no way to see the parade. We finally managed to reach the stairs which lead into a park that was parallel to the road. After getting through the fray we walked down a deserted little path where posters had been lined up for the public to read. I walked over to them, and faces of holocaust victims stared back. It was a stark contract to the shouts of joy on the street above.

“Mattie, give it up.” Sophie shouted, for approximately the twentieth time, over the song “Comedy Tonight” which was being blared from bad speakers attached to a bus in the parade. She sat down rubbing her feet which hurt after running to the end of the parade sight, “There is no way you’re going to see them, they’ve probably left anyway.” “Yeah,” agreed Sahar dejectedly, “I think she’s right.” “Oh come on guys!” I tried to convince them. “No, let’s go back to the Royal Mile.” replied Sahar as she linked arms with Sophie and started to walk away. Like a kicked puppy, I shoved my hands into my pockets, hung my head, and dejectedly followed them back to the Mile.

“Hey you guys.” said Chantel, another cast member as she walked up to us back on the Mile. I suggested we look for the Scots together. When she accepted my invitation I was ecstatic that I now had a willing participant in my search. After splitting up from the others, Chantel and I diligently went about our task by finding large crowds in hopes to see one of “our” five people. What a sight we were! We looked no different then the clowns performing just a few feet away, laughing and scrambling to help each other stand on every slippery bench or small concrete object that would let us survey the crowds, like sailors looking out to sea. “Oh!” I’d exclaim each and every time I saw the rugby jersey worn by one the Scots the night before. “Mattie,” Chantel reminded me “they’re going to be wearing different clothes.” We did this for about an hour and a half, but with every crowd yielding no results we became more and more disappointed. “I don’t think we’ll find them.” I finally said giving up hope. But then, through the crowd I saw a sweatshirt with green and white with stripes circling the arms. “I’ve found them” I said breathlessly and calmly in a brief state of shock. We had been looking for five people out of the half million that lived in Edinburgh. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. But, we didn’t just find one needle, we had found all five! All of our friends from the day before were there, Andrew, Steve, David, Jake, and the wearer of the sweatshirt, James. I ran over to him, dragging Chantel behind me “Hey!” I said, out of breath and smiling so wide that my face hurt. “Whit are ye daein’ haur ?” he replied with a look of utter confusion. “Well, to be honest we were looking for you guys.” I admitted sheepishly wishing I had come up with a better answer, such as the normal “nothing much.” The day before James had been talkative, and friendly but today he seemed only confused and lethargic. The other, quite shocking difference was the bright pink facepaint smeared on his bewildered, very round, face. I was about to comment on his unique choice of makeup when I heard a familiar voice to my right. “Hay thaur!” I turned to see Jake, a seventeen year old Scottish rugby player with boy-ishly good looks that would make him a heartthrob if he ever went into film. “Whit are ye daein’ haur?” he asked, his mouth slightly open and his head cocked in a questioning expression. “Um, just walking around.” I lied, not wanting to make a fool of myself twice. I noticed that Jake also sported the remnants of a pink costume he had been wearing earlier. I shouldn’t have been too surprised, they were theatre boys after all. “We waur pink fairies in th’ parade!” explained Jake with a bright immense smile that never seemed to ever leave his face. “Aw these men kept givin’ me looks sae ah jist did thes. ” he laughed blowing kisses to an imaginary crowd. All of them were carrying large bags, Jake had a backpack on both is back and another on his front, and it was clear that they were leaving Edinburgh for the highlands very soon. “Weel,” said Jake while throwing up his rugby ball, “unfortunately, ye jist missed us. We have tae go tae th’ train station tae eat an’ ‘en we hae tae catch a bus. ” Our faces fell “Well” I asked looking at my watch, “could we go with you?” We had two hours before we had to meet Sophie and Sahar back at the dorms. “Ah dornt see wa nae. ” Between Andrew and Jake we were constantly in stitches. I never felt the need to say anything, mainly because they kept a running dialogue at such a fast pace that their words were constantly tumbling over each others. We went with them to get food and took up an entire street corner. With their luggage surrounding us, we appearing to be a bunch of homeless kids sporting interesting fashion choices.

It was like the ultimate daytime sleepover, all of us were constantly laughing and telling stories. Andrew, a tan blonde Scot who looks like he should be in a Italian boyband was constantly watching himself in the glass and adjusting his hair. “Oh! stop bein’ sae vain.” Jake said as he mockingly pushed Andrew. Andrew turned to give Jake a look of complete innocence. “Hey” said Andrew gruffly, “I’m loosin’ mah voice, I’m gonnae deef at leest ah can look pretty!”

Chantel was very surprised by how much I was talking. “You’re normally so shy!” she kept saying. “I’m just the opposite” added Jake. “But ye ken sometimes it gits me intae trooble.” “Oh!” exclaimed Andrew, his face lighting up. “Teel ‘er abit wa ye got expelled.” At first Jake laughingly declined to tell the story, but after some badgering from two very curious American girls he finally caved in. “Weel,” Jake started, “it was St. Andrews day, an’ sae aw o’ us waur weain’ kilts. Sae mah teacher cam up tae me an’ asked me if Ah was bein’ a real Scotsman- no underwear. an’ ah said och aye.” Jake met the eyes of each of his friends in turn, who were all stifling laughter. “They didn’t believe me! Sae ah jist went whooo” he tilted back and mimed lifting a kilt. “ain they kicked me out.” he said matter-a-factly. “my ootgoingness gits me intae trooble. ” “Alright, enough story time!” said their director, “we need to get all of you to the bus station.” “Oh, you guys have to go?” Chantel asked very disappointed. “Aye, I’m afraid sae” said David. “Can we not go with you?” I asked. “Well, alright” said the director a bit begrudgingly, “you two might as well.”

At the bus station we started talking about what we did outside of theatre, so I had to explain the concept of a marching band. “Basically” I explained, “it’s where you march in shapes while playing music.” “Beast!” said Andrew, using one of the many slang words that they taught us, meaning “awesome.” “Hoo dae ye march?” “I could show you.” I offered. So, all of us stood up and got in a line, and started to roll our feet in time to my clapping, much to the amusement of a group of elderly people also waiting for the bus. I also tried to teach Jake how to do the cha-cha. He stood there, laughing looking down at his overly-large feet as he tried to do the steps. “forward, (pause) cha-cha-cha, back, (pause) cha-cha-cha” I kept repeating, over and over again. When most people think of the cha-cha images of latin music, red skirts and fast hips come to mind. When Jake did the cha-cha it looked a bit like a football player imitating a gazelle, prancing and landing quite heavily on his feet just a bit off beat each time.

Way too soon it was time for them to go. Looking like long lost family, we hugged each other, and said our goodbyes. We had only known each other for a few hours over the course of two days, but we still were “gutted” to have them go. As I hugged them goodbye it began to sink in that I would probably never see any of these guys again. I hugged Jake last, “bye” he simply said as he kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll miss you.” I said kissing him back. He picked me up and spun me around, setting me gently back on the ground. He picked up his backpacks and rugby ball, and with the others left to board the bus. We waved as they boarded the bus, each group talking to their friends but making eye contact with the other through the glass. As we waited for their bus to leave, I started talking to the Scottish director when I saw Jake go sprinting down the hall, right past us. As he came back I excused myself by saying “I’ll be right back.” I took off my necklace, walked up to Jake and placed it in his hand. “Whit’s thes?” he asked. “Nothing.” I said slowly. Then he put this hand under my chin and raised my face up. There are times in life that are picture moments, but this moment was like a movie. As he pulled away he quietly said “I’ve gawt tae go.” “Ok” I replied “goodbye.” When I returned to the conversation with Chantel and the Scottish director Chantel gave me a questioning look. “Hmmm.” she said, raising her eyebrows. “I have a feeling I missed something.” “Umhm” was all I could say, not being able to keep from smiling.

As the bus rolled away, Chantel and I left the bus station. “Wait a minute” Chantel said surveying her surroundings. “Do you know where we are?” We had paid no attention to the many twists and turns we had taken on our long walk to the station. Normally, add this to the fact that we were 2 hours late for check-in, and I would have been a mess. I set myself to a high standard of rule following, one of my least favorite things to be is late, so normally I make sure it never happens. But, with the current circumstances I frankly, did not care at all. “Hahaha!” I joyously laughed as I spun around bouncing up and down the street. I smiled at all of the people passing by me who were staring at me because of my sudden jubilance. Chantel, who had never seen this side of me before, just stood there unable to comprehend what she was seeing. With Chantel following my random bounces and leaps we finally made our way to a church’s steps at the end of the block. There, Chantel sat looking at the map I had brought along with me. I had always been the navigator on our trip and now that Chantel was on her own, she was hopelessly confused and I was of no help as I was busy jumping down the stairs. “Mattie,” Chantel- finally pleaded “please come here, I have no idea where we are!” I sat down next to her taking the map from her and went about trying to find where we were. “Awww” said an elderly Scottish lady above me. I looked up to see a nun standing in front of us, beaming. “You two lassies are just as pretty as a picture.” she beamed clasping her hands. “That’s so nice! Thank you.” I replied glowing, “Do you happen to know where Edinburgh University dormitories are?” I asked. “Aye, I do. They’re not far from here.” she replied to my relief and quickly gave us our necessary directions. “Have you lived in Edinburgh for long?” I asked as I gathered up my things. “Aye, my whole life.” “Well, your city is easily one of the most gorgeous cities I’ve ever seen. Thank you for the directions.” I said in parting. “Oh, lassies” she said as she started to finish walking up the steps, “it is not as gorgeous as you.” Well, I sure felt like it. If somebody had asked me at that moment how I felt. “Beast,” I would have said, “that was so noice!”

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This article has 1 comment.

on Oct. 12 2008 at 4:23 pm
This is wonderfully written! I've never seen an accent typed out before. It really gave me the impression that I was listening to these scots speak! You seem to have quite a life.


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